Frequently Asked Questions


Do you offer free consultations?

Phillips & Peters does not offer free consultations. A consultation is an hour-long appointment with a lawyer of your choice that will help you plan your legal pathway forward. The cost of the consultation varies by attorney.

A consultation is an hour-long appointment designed to help you plan your next steps forward. You can expect our family law attorneys to provide individualized counseling based on your unique situation. There are three types of consultations available to you: in-person, virtual, or telephonic. 

Come prepared with questions to make the most of your time. We advise gathering any relevant documents that will help the attorney make a legal assessment. These documents may include any of the following: 

  • Court Orders
  • Signed Agreements 
    • Separation Agreements
    • Custody Agreements
    • Stipulation Agreements
    • Prenuptial Agreements
    • Entrustment Agreements
    • Safety Plans
  • Guardian Ad Litem Reports
  • Protective Orders
  • Summons for Court Hearings
  • Any pleadings that you have been served or have been filed by you or on your behalf
  • Financial documents related to your marriage
  • Any previous decrees or orders of divorce

If you are unsure which documents to provide, please feel free to ask when scheduling your consultation.

If you are served with initial documents to commence a divorce or other family-related litigation, you will also receive a document called a Summons. The Summons contains the time frame with which you will need to respond or will let you know your court date and time. If you receive any document with a summons, you should take the document and the Summons to a family law attorney for advice on how to proceed immediately.

First, bring it to an attorney to review. A separation agreement signed by both parties is binding. If you sign an agreement without seeking legal advice, you may be waiving rights or agreeing to things without meaning to. You cannot simply change your mind once an agreement is fully signed.

Adultery is a grounds for divorce in Virginia. If you suspect adultery and wish to keep that ground for divorce, be careful. It is possible to “condone” adultery. This means you give up your ground for divorce if you cohabit with your spouse after the knowledge of adultery.

In Virginia, there is no definitive age where children get to make the final decision as to where they live when parents do not reside together. The child’s reasonable preference, as long as that child is of reasonable intelligence, understanding, age, and experience to express such a preference, is simply one of 10 factors that a judge must consider. So, while a child’s preference does not necessarily dictate the outcome of a custody/visitation dispute, it is a factor the judge should consider. However, be cautious, parents. Influencing children to choose one or the other is not looked on favorably by the courts.

The answer depends on the factual situation. If the other parent disagrees with the move of the children, the Virginia courts do have the discretion to preclude a parent from relocating the children’s residence outside of the Commonwealth of Virginia. If this is something you are considering, seek the advice of a family law attorney before making any major and final decisions.

In Virginia, except in very limited circumstances, there is a waiting period for divorce. If you have minor children with your spouse, you must be separated for at least one year before you may be finally divorced. If you do not have minor children with your spouse and have signed a separation agreement, the separation period is only six months. In Virginia, “separation” is not a legal status; you do not “file” for separation. Separation is a factual situation. You should discuss thoroughly your factual situation with an attorney to decide if you are separated.

In Virginia, you must have grounds for divorce. There is no such thing as a divorce due to “irreconcilable differences.” The grounds for divorce in Virginia include adultery, sodomy, buggery, cruelty, desertion, and constructive desertion, and the parties living separate and apart without cohabitation and without interruption for one year. 

If you do not have minor children with your spouse and sign a separation agreement, you may be divorced on the grounds of having lived separate and apart without cohabitation and without interruption for six months. In certain circumstances, one party could have grounds for divorce if the other party has been convicted of and jailed for a felony.

The short answer is yes. A party to a divorce has the right to appeal a final divorce ruling to the Court of Appeals; however, there is a catch. The Court of Appeals does not have the right to substitute its own judgment for that of the trial Court. Most often, an appeal to the Court of Appeals is appropriate when a legal error occurs, in other words the law was applied incorrectly, or the wrong law was applied. There are also time limits in which to file your appeal.  If you think you want to appeal a case from the Circuit Court to the Court of Appeals, contact an attorney immediately.

Take your first step forward with Phillips Peters